M’s Add Some Relievers, Change Stadium Name

December 21, 2018

It’s the slow time of the year for baseball news: the period immediately following the Winter Meetings, lasting through the holiday season. But the M’s made some news this week.

Edit: that opening sentence sure turned out to be wrong. Within an hour of posting the blog, the Mariners traded Ben Gamel to the Brewers for slugging outfielder Domingo Santana, and then the Dodgers and Reds made a huge trade sending Yasiel Puig to Cincinnati. Lots of action on a Friday afternoon!

They officially announced the new naming rights deal for the former Safeco Field. It will now be called T-Mobile Park.

The change will be hard to get used to, at first. The ballpark has been known as Safeco Field since it was built. I know I will accidentally call it Safeco on the air at some point in April, and I suspect the Mariners announcers will slip up once or twice themselves. It’s hard to re-train the brain.

The good news is the T-Mobile deal is a 25-year pact. The name shouldn’t be changing again any time soon. As for the name itself, it went from an insurance company to a telephone company. It’s hard to get emotional about that.

More pertinent to what we care about in this space, the Mariners have signed a couple of relief pitchers: one for them, and one (probably) for us in Tacoma. Left-hander Zac Rosscup was brought in on a major league contract, with the hopes that he can get left-handed hitters out in the big leagues this year. Right-hander Tyler Danish was signed to a minor league contract, and we will pencil him into the Tacoma bullpen.

Danish was the Chicago White Sox second round draft pick out of a high school in Plant City, Florida in 2013, making him a young minor league free agent at age 24. The White Sox developed him as a starting pitcher until 2018, when they moved him to bullpen at Triple-A Charlotte. Used as a multiple-inning reliever, Danish posted a 3.01 ERA in 33 games and 71.2 innings. He got into seven major league games in 2018, all as a reliever. At this point we don’t know if the Mariners are looking at him as a possible major league reliever, or a Triple-A starter, or a Triple-A reliever. There are lots of possible outcomes here.

Not much in the links below. This could be our last post of 2018 (unless Trader Jerry strikes again). The holidays will come and go, then the new year arrives and everyone looks at each other and realizes that spring training is just six weeks away, and it’s time to get moving.

Links:

  • The Seattle Times has a news story on the T-Mobile Park name change.
  • In terrific news for all concerned, MLB along with the Cuban and US governments have struck a deal so that baseball players don’t have to defect from Cuba in order to play in the USA. Here are the details.
  • Here’s the story on the M’s signing lefty reliever Zac Rosscup.

Happy holidays, and thanks for reading all year!

 


Meetings End With Major League Moves

December 14, 2018

Baseball’s Winter Meetings came to a close on Thursday, and the Mariners made a couple of major league moves. Neither is likely to impact the Tacoma Rainiers.

Seattle moved recently acquired veteran Carlos Santana back to one of his previous clubs, the Cleveland Indians, in a three-team deal. The M’s received veteran designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and a compensatory draft pick (No. 77 overall, between the 2nd and 3rd rounds).

Encarnacion is a fun player to watch, but there are already rumors that he – like Santana – will never suit up for the M’s. There are probably contending teams in the American League that would be willing to give up a prospect or two to get him.

The Rule 5 Draft is the official end of the Winter Meetings ever year, and the Mariners took a right-handed relief pitcher named Brandon Brennan. He was in the White Sox system last year, and the Mariners tried to sign him as a minor league free agent but he inked with the Rockies instead. So the M’s said screw it, we’ll grab him in the Rule 5 Draft. Now the Mariners have to keep him in the major leagues all season, or else offer him back to the Rockies.

That’s it from Vegas. A pretty quiet Winter Meetings, overall. The big fish (Harper, Machado) are still out there, unsigned.

Links:

  • Here’s the Seattle Times story on the acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion. General Manager Jerry Dipoto orchestrated this trade from a hospital bed in Las Vegas as he became ill during the trip.
  • The paper also has a story explaining why trading Kyle Seager is very difficult, due to a contract issue.
  • Here’s the story on Rule 5 pick Brandon Brennan.
  • Baseball America has the complete results of the Rule 5 Draft, including the minor league phase in which the M’s lost a couple of guys – most notably Double-A outfielder Chuck Taylor.
  • Shannon Drayer has a look at the offseason programs the Mariners have been putting their minor leaguers through. In particular, I like the idea of Game Calling University for the catchers.
  • The Baseball Trade Show always generates a fun Winter Meetings article. This year we have the columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal wandering the aisles with longtime major leaguer Jerry Reuss.

Winter Meetings Update – Rainiers Style

December 12, 2018

As noted previously, I am in Las Vegas during the Winter Meetings in a non-work capacity, but I did swing by the festivities and attend the Mariners affiliates dinner on Tuesday night.

We are slow on player news at the moment, but here are a few notes.

  • At the affiliate dinner the M’s Director of Player Personnel Andy McKay was in good spirits, and he met with the Tacoma Rainiers contingent to talk about some of the players he thinks could be with us on opening day. This was off-the-record, and Andy said you never know when there will be four more trades, but he did make it sound like we will have some of the newly acquired prospects at the start of the season. That will be fun, since we haven’t had a “ranked” prospect on opening day since Tyler O’Neill in 2017.
  • McKay announced the promotion of Leslie Manning to Assistant Director of Player Personnel, so she will be making rounds in Tacoma quite a bit.
  • Our coaching staff is going to be announced soon, and unless there are late changes we will have some very familiar faces.
  • We met some front office people from the new Class-A West Virginia affiliate. They described their downtown ballpark and it sounds pretty cool. I asked if it was a hitter’s or pitcher’s park and they said both – it’s depends on the wind. They are going to be stacked with prospects at the start of the season, so you might want to give their radio guy a twitter follow if that’s your thing. His name is David Kahn (@sportskahn4), and he seems like a good kid.
  • The Rainiers contingent includes Ashley Schutt (who is spending most of her time here being congratulated for her award and the infant daughter (no link available) she’s rolling around with), sales gurus Shane Santman and Tim O’Hollaren (who are trying to fill a couple of open sales staff positions), and team owner Mikal Thomsen and his right-hand man Isaac Wells.
  • I have not yet bumped into Bryce Harper, but if I do I promise to sign him on the spot.

Some links in the media:

  • Despite little in the way of Mariners news so far, Seattle Times reporter Ryan Divish is everywhere. You just keep bumping into him. In his Day Two rolling blog post he wrote that Carlos Santana‘s time with the Mariners is likely to be very brief. He also fired off this report on what manager Scott Servais said during his media session.
  • For national news and rumors, here is today’s ESPN thread.
  • In the PCL, former Salt Lake Bees manager Keith Johnson was hired by the Marlins to pilot New Orleans this coming season. Personally, I was hoping Pat Listach would get this gig near his home.

Aviators Launch Winter Meetings

December 10, 2018

The Winter Meetings are underway in Las Vegas, and the host team kicked off the proceedings by announcing their new name.

The Las Vegas 51s are no more. The new name of the team will be the Las Vegas Aviators, and they have a new logo as they move into their new ballpark with their new affiliation in April.

I like the name Aviators, and commend franchise leadership for not naming the team the Desert Hippos or something like that. The logo is… unique.

You can see the logo and read about the team’s new identity right here.

Links:

  • Ryan Divish has his Mariners Winter Meetings preview. He also is doing his rolling blog post for each day of the meetings, passing along rumors and news from around the game.
  • Ex-Rainiers and Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmson announced his retirement via an Instagram message (which you can see in Divish’s rolling blog post linked above). He had one of the more unusual careers of recent times, taking a five year hiatus while in the minors to see the world – and then reaching the majors and being successful afterwards.
  • The Mariners claimed former Salt Lake Bees infielder Kaleb Cowart off waivers from the Angels, and announced they are going to give him a chance to pitch and see if he can become a two-way player. Cowart is out of minor league options, so it is unclear how they will get this done. It’s interesting, though. Offensively, Cowart has been a good PCL player who hasn’t put it together in his big league opportunities.
  • The M’s lost a longtime upper-level front office member when the Los Angeles Dodgers hired away Assistant General Manager Jeff Kingston. Jeff visited Cheney Stadium often during his ten years with the Mariners and we wish him the best with his new club.
  • Former Mariners manager Lou Piniella finished one vote short of Hall of Fame induction, in a vote by the current iteration of the “Veteran’s Committee.” His next chance will come in 2021.
  • For more of a national look at what is going on at the Winter Meetings, try this ESPN page (looks like a decent round-up so far).

 


Baseball’s Winter Meetings Open Sunday

December 8, 2018

A quick Saturday update for you, with the Winter Meetings getting underway tomorrow in Las Vegas.

I’ll be in Vegas during the meetings, but in a non-official capacity (i.e. for fun). However, I’ll keep you updated with any Mariners-related news from the meetings here on the blog. Posts will most likely be simple news round-ups… like this one!

Links:

  • We’ll start with the sad news: former Tacoma Rainiers infielder Luis Valbuena died in a car wreck in Venezuela on Thursday night. He played in 58 games for the Rainiers in 2008 (and a couple of games as an emergency fill-in in 2005), and then went on to a ten-year major league career. Former major leaguer Jose Castillo also perished in the crash, and ex-Rainiers third baseman Carlos Rivero survived it. It is believed to have been a case of foul play.
  • Seattle has reportedly signed left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone to a minor league contract. He has lots of big league experience – career stats.
  • National baseball writer Jon Heyman has an overview of where things stand with the Mariners. If you have been paying casual attention to the M’s offseason, this will get you caught up.
  • Ryan Divish interviewed some experts to see how the Mariners farm system currently stacks up.
  • Greg Johns writes that the Mariners will be looking for relief pitching at the Winter Meetings.
  • Robinson Cano played up to his contract during his time in Seattle, Larry Stone writes.
  • Former San Francisco Giants third baseman “Dirty Al” Gallagher has passed away. He was the first former major leaguer I encountered in my broadcasting career, when he was manager of the 1995 Bend Bandits of the independent Western League. Thanks for helping a young, green broadcaster, Al.
  • In the PCL, Las Vegas is getting its new ballpark and team president Don Logan has been named the league’s Executive of the Year.

Mariners Add To Farm – Will It Help Tacoma In 2019?

December 4, 2018

The Seattle Mariners announced two huge trades on Monday, sending established major league players to teams in the National League East in exchanges for prospects and salary relief.

Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz went to the New York Mets for major leaguers Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak, along with prospects Justin Dunn, Gerson Bautista and Jarred Kelenic.

Kelenic is seen as the key prospect in this trade, but one thing we won’t be doing is watching him at Cheney Stadium any time soon. Kelenic graduated from high school earlier this year and is just 19-years-old. If he has a successful, natural progression through the minor leagues he would reach Triple-A in late 2021 or 2022.

But the two pitchers in the deal could help the Rainiers this year.

Justin Dunn is a starting prospect with good velocity, and the Mets promoted him to Double-A fairly early last season. He made 15 starts for their Binghamton club, going 6-5 with a 4.22 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 89.2 innings pitched. It sounds like he’ll open the 2019 season with Double-A Arkansas, and hopefully he’ll get off to a good start there and earn a promotion to Tacoma during the season.

A hard-throwing reliever, Gerson Bautista pitched half of the 2018 season at the Triple-A level, for Las Vegas. He even pitched at Cheney Stadium once, on May 19 (the Rainiers whacked him around, scoring two runs in 2.1 innings). Bautista made his MLB debut in 2018, and could possibly win a major league bullpen job with a good spring training in March. But that’s a long time from now, and at this point it’s impossible to determine the makeup of the Mariners bullpen. If not with the Mariners, Bautista will be with Tacoma.

In the other deal, the Mariners sent Jean Segura, James Pazos and Juan Nicasio to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for major league first baseman Carlos Santana and former top shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford.

Crawford is coming off a disappointing and injury-riddled rookie season. I’m sure the Mariners are hoping that he shows well (and healthy) in spring training and wins the starting shortstop job. But he does have minor league options left, and if the M’s decide Crawford needs more of that proverbial minor league seasoning he’ll be here in Tacoma.

The two trades serve as a real blocker for Tacoma slugger Dan Vogelbach. Both Santana and Bruce are probably best suited as designated hitters, and Ryon Healy is still on the Mariners roster (at blog posting time), so there is no opening for Vogelbach. He is out of minor league options and must make the big league team out of spring training or else be exposed to waivers.

In a rebuild year, this seems like the perfect time to let Vogelbach DH every game and see what he can do. But the team has acquired players to block that opportunity, for now.

Links:

  • Here are the final stories with reaction from the players and Jerry Dipoto on the Robinson Cano trade and the Jean Segura deal.
  • The Mariners released pitcher Casey Lawrence to allow him to sign with a team in Japan. Lawrence has been very successful as a starting pitcher for Tacoma the last two years, but when he was called up to Seattle they moved him to long relief and he struggled in that role. Hopefully he’ll do well in Japan (while making a very nice living).
  • Seattle found its major league catcher by trading reliever Alex Colome to the Chicago White Sox for receiver Omar Narvaez.
  • Wise friend Larry Stone has an excellent column on the Mariners teardown-and-rebuild. One thing to add to the discussion: there is added pressure on the Mariners minor league player development department to instruct the incoming talent – especially at the lower levels of the farm system.
  • There are many stories on the Cano trade. Keith Law looks at the deal (ESPN+ required), with an emphasis on the prospects the Mariners received.
  • Also at ESPN+, Buster Olney reveals his take on the deal and suggests that Kyle Seager is the next to get moved. Personally, I think they should keep him and hope for a bounce-back season, and then decide what to do.
  • Baseball Prospectus has an analysis of the trade.
  • Fangraphs looks at the prospects that the Mariners added in the Cano trade, and Jeff Sullivan writes up the Segura deal making it clear that the Phillies were the only team truly interested in him.
  • The News Tribune attempts to track the Mariners roster.